Following a difficult three years, the Australian retail landscape has nearly regained its pre-pandemic form, although a few notable changes have emerged and are likely to remain.

We are seeing customers embrace a myriad of shopping trends such as digital marketplaces (like Amazon, eBay), social commerce (such as shopping via Instagram), shoppertainment (a blend of eCommerce and entertainment), and buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS). As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, it is worth noting that traditional brick-and-mortar retail is also making a comeback since the height of the pandemic.

All of these shopping channels are what make up today’s era of omnichannel retail. Now more than ever, brands and retailers need to ensure that they are across most – if not all of these channels in order to satisfy consumers’ changing demands and increasing expectations. Most importantly, brands need to incorporate a combination of different channels (such as having a physical store and an online presence) to fully cultivate customer engagement, retention, and sales. This hybrid model of retail selling is precisely what omnichannel is all about.

Retail trends for 2023

According to Australia Post’s 2023 Online Shopping Report, retailers with physical stores and an online presence, otherwise referred to as ‘bricks & clicks’, enjoyed the most success in recent years. Stacked against all other retail types, bricks & clicks retailers continued to dominate the share of consumer spend compared to marketplaces, big brands, digital native retailers, and smaller businesses.

These trends represent a clear means of change within the retail industry with a hybrid mix of digital and physical retail. These bricks & clicks retailers saw a collective 7 per cent point increase in share of online spend compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This was seemingly at the expense of digital native retailers, who saw a 7 per cent point decline. Since 2020, bricks & clicks retailers have invested in developing their digital experience and integrating their online and offline channels. With shoppers now back in physical stores, businesses that maintained both are thus being rewarded tenfold.

Retailers lack the necessary tools for effective omnichannel selling 

Of the many new industry and consumer trends that have emerged in recent years, most of them are likely here to stay, which continues to add more channels to the list. As such, it’s in retailers’ best interest to stay ahead of these trends as well as ensure they are present to play the field. However, more often than not, retailers lack the tools and expertise needed to fully utilise multiple sales channels.

As consumer appetite for omnichannel continues to grow, brands need to be actively selling and interacting with customers on as many channels as possible, whether that be via social media, enhanced eCommerce interfaces, through AI-powered chatbots, customer service chat boxes, or digital marketplaces. For brands that only have a presence on a single channel, a lack of knowledge in other areas can lead them to lose customer relationships, loyalty, and sales. 

Fortunately, there are several ways for retailers to broaden their sales channels to align with omnichannel experiences. Capturing and utilising data insights is a great starting point to see what channels customers are more likely to shop on. And for brands who can’t afford to be truly omnichannel, they can harness their existing customer shopping data and sweep across the latest industry trends to enhance customer personalisation for better engagement on the channels that they already use. 

This could include ramping up your marketing strategy to engage with customers via social media, including personable ad content, and thereafter providing a point-of-sale method within social ads. It’s also increasingly important to ensure that a brand’s in-store presence matches their online presence – which strengthens not only brand credibility but also the likelihood of customers making confident purchases on both ends.

Enhancing the shopping journey

When it comes to building a strategy that lines up with consumers’ demand for omnichannel retail, the core step is to enhance the shopping journey, from discovery to checkout. To develop a truly integrated omnichannel strategy, brands need to create a seamless and personalised shopping journey for their customers – and the tools to achieve this are already here.

A solution such as preezie journeys, for example, allows brands to fine-tune their customers’ shopping journey to create a unique and personable experience. Journeys bridge the gap between in-store and online shopping to ensure that customers receive a quality experience regardless of whether they checkout digitally or physically. Through fun, dynamic on-site quizzes, journeys works to emulate the help of a sales assistant, guiding customers to products based on their individual needs and preferences.

Another example of enhancing the omnichannel journey is to implement a strategy to interact with customers on as many channels as possible, or at the very least, on the channels that key customer groups are most likely to use. This could involve a digital marketing campaign to engage and interact with customers through chat-bots or in-app chat features, email support, and social media content. With these interactions, brands can collect insights and customer data points across these channels to further personalise the shopping journey. 

It might sound harsh, but the bottom line is brands that don’t work towards perfecting the omnichannel experience have no chance of long-term success. Taking small steps today to maximise your customer data, physical space, and online presence (as well as the trends and technology that marry all three) will help you get ahead of the pack and earn continuous customer loyalty at the checkout.

Michael Tutek is founder and CEO of preezie.